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IN WHOSE PRESENCE YOU STAND

On March 22, 1824 an incident took place in Madison County, Indiana, which came to be known as the Fall Creek Massacre. Six white men murdered nine Seneca and Miami Indians and wounded another. Among the nine dead were three women and four children. The six men were apprehended and tried and some were executed. One of the men named John Bridge Jr. was sentenced to death by hanging for his part in the massacre. He was to be executed on June 3, 1825. His father, John Bridge Sr. and another man named Andrew Sawyer, who was John Bridge Jr.’s uncle, were also to be executed that day.

John Bridge, Jr., along with a large crowd, witnessed the hangings of his father and uncle as the crowd waited expectantly for a pardon from the governor. With no sign of a pardon, a sermon was preached as the crowd waited expectantly. Finally, John Bridge, Jr. was lead to the gallows and the rope was lowered over his head.

But as the men waited for a signal, a cheer arose from the back of the crowd. A stranger rode forward and looked the condemned man in the face. "Sir, do you know in whose presence you stand?" Bridge shook his head. "There are but two powers known to the law that can save you from hanging by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead; one is the great God of the Universe, the other is J. Brown Ray, Governor of the State of Indiana; the latter stands before you..." Handing over the written pardon, the governor announced, "You are pardoned." In an instant, what had looked like a hopeless situation became a door of hope. John Bridge Jr. went back home, settled down, opened a dry goods store and died peacefully, fifty-one years later!

I told that story to ask this question: Can you imagine the fear that must have gripped the heart of that young man as he watched his father and his uncle die, knowing that he was next. Can you imagine the...

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